Pains at home, glory abroad

•That is the contrasting fortune of Nigerian medical students, one of whom carted away almost all prizes at a convocation in Ghana

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” Charles Dickens, in these memorable words, opened his classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, reporting the temper of London and Paris, in revolutionary France.

Though that historical novel was written in 1859, the opening sentiments succinctly capture the mixed fortune of Nigerian medical students in Accra, Ghana, and in Lagos, Nigeria.

At the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology School of Medical Sciences, Fathia Kehinde Kareem, a graduating medical student in that university, made a near-clean sweep of all the awards at the convocation, claiming 12 out of 15 prizes. It was a university record, dwarfing the previous record of eight out of 15 prizes.

In Miss Kareem, the Nigerian youth never boasted a more splendid ambassador, showing how excellently our youth could perform, given the right atmosphere. Indeed, she was a worthy representative, in which her country must be immensely proud.

However, her rare feat rudely challenges her country, which appears in perpetual decline, in about every field under the sun, even if her citizens keep on posting superlative performance elsewhere. Nigeria, therefore, must put in place basic blocks, for her nationals to excel, particularly at home. Time and time again on foreign soil, Nigerians have proved their excellence. This, however, clearly mocks the shambolic situation at home.

So, while Miss Kareem was harvesting glory abroad, her counterparts at the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM), were drenched in the rain, protesting a prolonged stay in the university, due to perennial strikes that slowed down their academic calendar; and complications arising from failed accreditation, of their Dentistry programme.

Within 24 hours of the protest, however, the Lagos State government did well to release funds to procure critical training equipment to aid LASUCOM’s full accreditation, to avert any future recurrence of such delays. That was prompt — and good.

Still, the point must be made: the government need not have waited until the students went out protesting. Therefore, there should be more coordination between the LASU management and the Lagos government, which owns and funds the university.

Having promptly responded to the challenge, however, the Lagos State government should ensure LASUCOM never again suffers any accreditation glitch. LASUCOM started well, for it is one of the better medical schools in the Nigerian university system. Indeed, according to Prof. Babatunde Solagberu, it boasts the only Dentistry faculty, among state universities in the country that run medical programmes.

The university, with the full support of the state government, should take this accreditation challenge as a starting point to re-start its medical school on a path of excellence, that its early days so much portended.

But away from local LASUCOM challenges, the Medical and Dental Practitioners Council of Nigeria (MDCN) should be commended for mounting a robust and rigorous accreditation process that should keep medical schools nationwide on their toes, to ensure high standards.

LASUCOM should therefore accept the challenge, and put the school on the pedestal it ought to be. It already has a teaching hospital that garners solid reputation by the day. Now, it is time to add cutting edge equipment, as well as quality faculty members. Medical training, after all, is too important to be left to chance.

With world-class universities at home, more Nigerians would be encouraged to send their children to local universities. Nigeria can then conserve scarce foreign exchange, burnt on foreign education, but sorely needed to develop other sectors of Nigeria’s socio-economic life.0

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